Teacher education and partnerships with galleries: What do pre-service teachers think?

Partnerships with cultural organisations such as galleries and museums are under utilised by teacher education programs in Australia (Abeles, 2004Bybee, 2001Falk, 2001; Lemon& Garvis, 2014; Nichols, 2014; Wilson, 2004). Cultural organisations are community assets that offer a range of rich and diverse learning resources and programs for learners encompassing all levels of education (Eames & Coll, 2010; Grossman & McDonald, 2008). This project aimed to investigate how a partnership between Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) and La Trobe University could begin to understand how working in partnership while embedding a site visit into teacher education curriculum could support future teachers awareness of resources available.

Approach

The project was a case study that gathered the voice of pre-service teachers in order to understand the impact of cultural engagement within teacher education.

There were three stages to this study: 1) pre survey, 2) participation in visual arts workshop at SAM, and 3) post evaluation.

Participants

The participants were pre-service teachers (students) of the Graduate Diploma of Education (Middle Years) course. A total of 59 participants were involved in this pre-survey of the study, with a return rate of 54.6%. In the post-survey 82 returned the survey with a return rate of 78%. 108 pre-service teachers were in the class who participated in the education program at SAM as a part of their teacher education studies.

Findings

Pre-service teachers background in creative participation:

Visual arts participation saw largest numbers in crafts like ceramics, jewelry making, sewing or woodcraft (53%) and photography as an artistic endeavor (45%). 61% play a musical instrument while 58% sing and 35% participate in traditional or contemporary theatre. Creative literacy practice participation sat in the writing of a biography, memoir, essay or history (52%) and novel or short story (48%).

Background in arts and specifically receptive participation:

The pre-service teachers indicated that they visit galleries (71%) and museums (79%) as a part of their personal time. 91% attend live music, 70% attend traditional or contemporary theatre, and many read a novel (85%) or read a biography, memoir or history (83%).

From this pre-data collected there is a strong percentage of pre-service teachers in this cohort who participate (creatively and receptively) in cultural activities connected to visual arts, performing arts (music and theatre/drama), and creative literacy.

Access to cultural organisations as teachers:

54% of the pre-service teachers indicated they had visited a gallery or museum for education purposes. The top reasons for this visit was for: a) School excursion (74%), b) Public program (19%), and c) Artist talk (16%). Only one pre-service teacher had visited these sites for teacher professional development.

In reflecting upon the reasons for not considering cultural organisations as educational resources, the pre-service teachers indicated that they had not made connections to these sites as resources. There were also reflections indicating lack of confidence, not knowing how to engage the site for education and were not too sure about moving form personal engagement to professional engagement. These are significant findings for partnerships between teacher education and cultural organisations and indicate the importance to engage future teachers who currently do not engage with cultural organisations for educational purposes in order to support them to make connections. While for those who do already engage with cultural organisations connections are reinforced and reminders are provided in how personal to professional links can be made to enhance both curriculum work with young people in school settings and for professional development as a teacher.

 Evaluating the learning experience at SAM:

The visit to SAM stimulated thinking:

  • About pedagogy from the perspective of art and thinking skills
  • How to engage students

The top ideas or curriculum connections emerged while at SAM:

  • Integrated curriculum approaches
  • Utilising the collection for literacy

Strength indicated were:

  • Gaining awareness around curriculum links
  • Gaining awareness pedagogical ideas
  • Experiencing SAM as a site for learning

Weaknesses indicated were:

  • More unpacking of art in the classroom (how to)
  • Too much talking (by educators)

Observations indicated were:

  • Enjoyed opportunity
  • Enjoyed the variety of art
  • Could begin to make connections to their role in teaching

Threats indicated were:

  • Logistical areas (time, location, travel, seeking permission from leaders to attend)
  • Perceived value to the curriculum (finding time, justifying need/value, working in a crowded curriculum, miss understanding how cultural organisations support/enhance curriculum and are not an add on)
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